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Golf Course conversions to public parks

Millbrook Green-banner

The former Millbrook Golf Course, now a public park, in Windsor, CT.

A recent article in CityLab discussed the continuing decline of golf in the United States and mentioned that the total number of private golf courses has shrunk, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. While the article focused on the potential conversion to residential and commercial uses, it did mention the conversion of private courses into public parks in a number of cities and towns across the country.  The Trust for Public Land is an active participant in creating public parks from private golf courses.  We work with towns, cities and towns in acquiring golf courses for public parks for a variety of both environmental and recreational uses. Our most recent acquisition is in Windsor, CT, but we’ve also acquired golf courses recently in Marin County, California, Portland, Oregon, Rancho Canada, California and Golden, Colorado.   More about this trend in our updated post, below.

Executive Summary:

The total number of golf courses has been steadily shrinking in the US for the past decade or so.  According the “The World of Golf” study published in 2015 by The R & A (Global Governing body for Golf) the number of courses in the US is 15,372, down from a high of 16,052 courses around the year 2005[1].

Data collected by The Trust for Public Land for the annual City Park Facts report shows the current number of public golf courses in the 100 largest U.S. cities is 413, up from 400 in 2010. Thus, the number of public golf courses is 2.69 percent of the current overall total.[2]

While we have not seen many examples of public golf courses being converted to parks, we do find 19 public or private golf courses being purchased and converted to public parks in the past 12 years. The Trust for Public Land has been an integral part of the latter effort, working on 9 of the 19 in the past 12 years.

Usage in golf courses, according to the National Golf Foundation is declining. In 2000, there were 28.8 M golfers, growing to 29.42 M in 2009, then falling by end of 2016 to 23.8 M golfers.[3] The number of rounds went from 518.4 M rounds in 2000 to 465.5 M rounds in 2013.[4] [5]

Examples of Golf Course to Park conversions in the past 10-12 years. We’ve found a total of 15 in the past 12 years that have been acquired, now in process to convert them into parks or nature preserves or fully converted. Many more have been considered, especially in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. A current trend is also considering them for conversion to housing subdivisions or commercial or industrial development.  Recent examples include: Tampa [See: http://www.tbo.com/news/localgovernment/pasco-commission-okays-quail-hollow-golf-course-conversion/2330077 ] among many others.

Current / recent golf course conversions to public parks:

Historic conversions of golf courses to public parks:

Examples of restoration techniques and processes used to convert golf courses to parks:

References:

Footnotes:

[1] – Information from the R & A and The National Golf Foundation – websites.

[2] – City Parks Facts 2017, The Trust for Public Land –

[3] – “Annual participation report uncovers favorable trends for the game’s future” April 22, 2017 in Golfdigest.com

[4] – Information from The National Golf Foundation – http://secure.ngf.org/cgi/faqa.asp?

[5] – Information from Statista – https://www.statista.com/statistics/227420/number-of-golfers-usa/

More on golf courses and their conversion to parks…

rancho-canada-carmel

Rancho Canada, Carmel, California

Back in March, we put out a call for news and stories on golf courses and their conversion to parks.  We also did more research and received a few tips and here’s an update to what we’ve found thus far…

  • Golf courses continue to decline from a peak of 16,052 courses in the US in 2005 to 15,372 in 2015. (Data from “The World of Golf” published by R & A, the global governing body for Golf, in 2015.)
  • The number of golfers are also declining in US, from a peak of 29.42 M in 2009 to 25.1 M in 2016.
  • There are 413 publicly owned golf courses in the 100 largest US cities, which is 2.69 percent of the total number of 15,372 courses.

While we have not seen many examples of public golf courses being converted to parks, we do find 14 private golf courses being purchased and converted to public parks in the past 12 years. The Trust for Public Land has been an integral part of the latter effort, working on 8 of the 14 in the past 12 years.

8 of those were projects of the Trust for Public Land, including 3 courses that we helped purchase in 2016 alone, including Applewood in Golden, Colorado and Rancho Canada in Carmel, California. Many more have been considered (and are being considered) but have not been successful due to price, funding or similar issues. 2 of the 14 are in the 100 largest US cities.

We’re continuing to follow this story and if you have additional information, examples or suggestions, please contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

applewood-golfcourse

Applewood golf course, Golden, Colorado

Disc Golf: Steady Growth

Have you played disc golf? It shares a lot in common with [regular] golf. A great video overview is here. A wikipedia overview of Disc Golf is here. But, the best way to learn is to head out with a group of golfers and try your hand (and wrist) at it.

According to our latest surveys of the 100 largest US cities, there are 186 disc golf courses in parks, with 51 new courses built and opened since we started collecting data on disc golf in 2013.

Which city is the capital of Disc Golf? In terms of sheer numbers, Charlotte boasts 14 courses, Houston in second place with six courses and Austin and Kansas City tied for third place with five courses each.

But in terms of courses per 100,000 residents, Tulsa (7 courses) leads the way with 1.7 courses per 100,000 residents, with Durham (4 courses) at 1.6 and Charlotte (14 courses) at 1.3, tied with Lexington, KY (4 courses), also at 1.3.  Overall, there are 186 disc golf courses in the 100 largest US cities, rising from 138 in 2013 when we began surveying cities about them.

And for those who want to know more about the professional side of things, visit the Professional Disc Golf association website. They report that there are over 5,000 disc golf courses in the United States, with “most open to the public.”

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to tpl.org (weblink: https://www.tpl.org/keywords/center-city-park-excellence)  If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

Your Input Needed: Are public golf courses being converted to Parks?

applewood-golfcourse

Applewood Golf Course, Golden, Colorado – photo credit: Brian Melody

Back in 2011, the Center for City Park Excellence wrote about a growing number of public golf courses being converted to parks.  In advance of the April release of the 2017 City Park Facts, we’re looking for more recent examples of US cities converting their golf courses to parks, so if you know of a recent example, please write to us at ccpe@tpl.org.

Here’s why we’re asking.

We’ve continued to hear about the closing of many privately owned golf courses over the last decade or so, the current total number of golf courses (according to a 2015 study by The R & A titled “Golf Around the World” is currently 15,372, down from a high of 16,052 courses around the year 2000.  We do know of many stories documenting  the transformation of  private golf courses into public parks. In fact, the Trust for Public Land was a partner in acquisition projects in Portland, Oregon,  Rancho Canada, California, and Golden, Colorado.

That said, the number of public golf courses in the 100 largest cities is currently 413, but the net decrease over the past five years is just three. Some cities have closed or transferred ownership and some cities have built or rebuilt golf courses as well.

Do you have an example or a story about new uses for a public golf course?  Let us know at ccpe@tpl.org.

Golf for kids in dense cities

New York City Parks and Recreation Dept.

New York City Parks and Recreation Dept.

The New York Times reports on a program in New York City to get more kids golfing. The City Parks Foundation expanded this program to include a new kid-oriented golf course in Brooklyn but the article also offers some insight into how programming ball fields as driving ranges can get kids playing where courses are not nearby. The group’s work started after Tiger Woods won his first masters in 1997.

That summer, Silverman (of the City Parks Foundation) started a program that turned open spaces in the city parks, like the outfield of a baseball diamond, into mini-driving ranges. The foundation paid for instructors, clubs and limited-flight golf balls. About 1,500 children signed up for free training in the first year. Over the years, the program expanded.

The rest of the article describes efforts to create the free kids course and other programs. According to one one young golfer, “These things have helped me with my school studies and in test taking. They’ve made me focus on the other things I want in life. The golf course gives me someplace to go and relax in the middle of the city. It gives me exercise. And I learned to think for myself. It’s like they say, ‘It’s so much more than a game.’ ”